Handwriting: Irrelevant or Indispensable?

When was the last time  you wrote a letter to someone?  Addressed an invitation?  Even addressed a bill?  In today’s digital age, handwriting is a thing of the past, like a giant cell phone with a 6 inch antenna, right?  When you can print anything from address labels to autobiographies on your computer with ease, why would  we want to waste valuable instruction time in our already taxed schools on this antiquated skills?

How many times does a child miss a question on a test because the teacher couldn’t read it or time ran out?  Or lose her place in a lecture because she couldn’t write fast enough to keep up?  Or get a lower grade on an essay because his hand tired out?  Or miss a math equation because the numbers weren’t lined up?  Legible writing and higher grades are inextricably linked, and having good handwriting can be a self esteem booster for the student who struggles in more academically challenging tasks.  How can a child hope to remember that difficult word on his spelling test if he’s too busy remembering how to make the letters?  If we can help them make their writing automatic, we can free their minds to move on to more important things – like learning, analyzing, and creating.

As teachers feel the extreme pressure for test score improvement, a subjective skill like handwriting has little hope of making the list.  However, we ignore one of the three “R’s” at the risk of costing our children an important learning and expression tool.  Instead of lamenting the loss of something that was a critical part of our own education, we as parents can take matters into our own hands, offering our children support in learning this basic skill for better success in their academic careers.  Many ready-made worksheets or home program books are available, or you can ask your teacher or occupational therapist for more information.

My favorite music teacher from elementary school had a saying, “practice makes permanent.”  I quote this phrase to my kids often, much to their annoyance, but it is true – when we repeat a motor skill over and over, the plan for that skill is cemented in our brain.  If our kids are left to flounder, essentially teaching themselves to write, inefficient and labor intensive writing habits will be their fate, diminishing their ability to function in the school setting.  Writing is about much more than that thank you note to Granny for the hand-knitted socks – the ability to think and write, or listen and write, in a way that you or someone else can go back and read later is essential for note taking, test taking, and creative expression for all students.  Until there is a computer for every child in every grade in every school, we fail our children when we fail to teach them to write.  And by the way, they aren’t being taught keyboarding skills, either!

By:  Rebecca Thomas, MOT

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Making the Most of Your Next Visit to the Playground

With this warm winter weather we’re having, visits to the playground can be great fun for you and your child.  The playground is full of wonderful opportunities for language development and motor skills!    

  • Take advantage of the swings and slides!  After your baby outgrows the baby swing or johnny-jump-up, strong movement (vestibular) input is hard for her to get at home.
  • Talk about the actions your child is doing (swinging, jumping, etc).  Use action verbs to model words for your child.
  • Work on basic concepts such as “up, down, in, out, on, off, stop, go, etc.”
  • Swinging and sliding are great ways to work on requesting.  After your child swings or slides, encourage them to ask for “more.”
  • Swinging and sliding are also wonderful linear movement activities that can help children develop better coordination, balance, and position in space awareness, as well as have a great time!
  • If your child is leery of swinging, see if swinging in your lap is a more agreeable option.
  • Pushing someone else on a swing is also a great way for older kids to get sensory input, as long as there is close supervision and the push-ee is having fun.

Remember, always encourage but never force.  And watch for any signs of distress, such as sweating, skin color change, or that glazed look, and stop immediately.  Have fun and don’t forget the sunscreen!

Caroline’s Cart

Going to the grocery store is an everyday chore we all have to do.  We run in, get the item, check out and leave.  If kids are with us, we plop them in the cart or let them drive the “race car.”

For families with children and adults with special needs, going to the grocery store can be a challenge.  People with special needs may have difficulty sitting in the typical shopping carts.  In addition, they soon outgrow them. Many stores have the option of the shopping carts that look like race cars, but these grocery carts don’t provide the support and safety all children may need.

Drew Ann Long, is the mother of a Caroline, a child with special needs.  She recognized the need for a shopping cart for children and adults with special needs – thus, Caroline’s Cart was created.   This shopping cart has the potential to change the lives of parents and caregivers across the country.  Caroline’s Cart has a 250 lb. weight limit, which allows it to be used by children and adults.

Caroline’s Cart has been specifically designed for those with special needs.  The handles swing back and forth to provide easy access to the seat.  The seat tilts for increased comfort and support for those with low muscle tone and it faces the caregiver.   There is also a 5 point adjustable harness to buckle the child/adult into the seat for added safety.  The bottom of the cart has a solid surface for full support of their feet and for storage of merchandise.  There are also side mounted basket hooks for extra carrying capacity.

In order for stores to start carrying Caroline’s Cart, we must spread the word and let them know that their customers have a need for Caroline’s Cart.   Here are some ways to help:

1.  Print this sample letter for you to give to your local grocery store manager and the corporate office.   You should include the spec sheet for Caroline’s Cart with the letter.  Encourage your friends and family members to send letters too.   The corporate office addresses for a few stores include:

 

  • Kroger (Regional Office)
    800 Ridge Lake Blvd Suite 100
    Memphis, TN  38120

 

  • Kroger (Corporate Office)
    1014 Vine Street
    Cincinati, Ohio  45202-1100

 

  • Wal-Mart (Corporate Office)
    702 SW 8th Street
    Bentonville, Arkansas 72716-8611

 

  • Target (Corporate Office)
    1000 Nicollet Mall
    Minneapolis, MN  55403

 

  • Fresh Market  (Corporate Office)
    628 Green Valley Road Suite 500
    Greensboro, NC     27408-7041

 

  • Whole Foods  (Corporate Office)
    125 Cambridge Park Dr.
    Cambridge, MA  02140

 

2.  You can also share Caroline’s Cart with your friends on Facebook or Twitter.

3. There is a video about Caroline’s Cart on YouTube.  Share the video with your family and friends.

 
The therapists, teachers and staff at Brightsong, LLC are sending letters and helping to spread the word.  Take the challenge with us and mail a letter to each of the above mentioned addresses.  With your help, we’ll see Caroline’s Cart in stores soon.

 

App Review: My Play Home

The app My Play Home is amazing!  Kids of all ages love this app and are able to use it with minimal assistance.  This app is a doll house with interactive pieces.  You can feed the people, wash the dishes, cook on the stove, swing in a tree, grow carrots, turn on music, change the music and even turn on and off the lights.  For speech therapy sessions, the following skills can be addressed while using this app:

  • Following Directions – While using this app, ask your child to follow 1 step directions (turn off the light) and 2 step directions (get the apple and feed the boy).   Provide assistance as needed.
  • Pretend Play – There are so many different things your child can do with this app.  They truly will be able to practice their pretend play skills.  They can wash and dry the people, play basketball, put the kids to bed and even blow bubbles!
  • Action Verbs – Another great things about this app is that your child will be able to talk about what the people are doing.  This allows us to target action verbs (eating, washing, swinging, etc).  While your child is using this app, ask them what the people are doing.  Encourage them to use these action verbs.
  • Pronouns – Pronouns are difficult to teach, but this app is perfect for working on the pronouns “he/she,” “his/her” and “they.”  Emphasize the pronouns while you’re talking with your child about what the people are doing and encourage them to use the pronouns in response.  For example, you might say, “Look at that boy.  He must be hungry.  What’s he doing?”  Encourage your child to say, “He is eating.”
  • Sequencing – This app also allows your child to work on sequencing skills.  For example, first we put the toothpaste on the toothbrush and then we brush our teeth!   Or, first we wash and then we dry.   There are several sequencing possibilities in a variety of settings (kitchen, bathroom, outside, etc).

This app has won several awards and it’s easy to see why.  For only $2.99, it targets several skills and allows for a variety of open ended play situations.  It’s amazing how detailed and interactive this app actually is and I’m sure you and your chid will  enjoy it!